Natural Tips to Handle Anxiety

We’ve been in a pandemic, political, polarizing shitstorm for 18 months. Anxiety probably controls a little bit of everyone at this point. Here are some healthy and natural ways to handle it and remove it from your daily life in the long run.

Tip 1: Exercise Often

It's repeated time and time again how important exercise is for your mental health, and it simply cannot be emphasized enough. Regular physical exertion is one of the most powerful tools available for fighting anxiety, and if you aren't at least considering it then you're not doing what it takes to be anxiety free.

Exercise has been found to stimulate the production of calming neurochemicals such as endorphins and reduces levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) burns away stress hormones. This is associated with a reduction in anxiety symptoms. It is probably the single most important thing you can do to fight anxiety.

Tip 2: Re-Learn Breathing

Most people don't realize this, but anxiety can actually alter the way you breathe. Those with anxiety tend to take faster breaths, often taking in more oxygen than they need. This is called "hyperventilation" and it's responsible for many of the physical symptoms of anxiety attacks.

You can re-train your body to breathe in a healthier way. It isn't easy but by spending 10 minutes a day breathing much more slowly, taking in full breaths deep into the abdomen all the way to the top of the head; you can get your body back into better habits. Also, using breath work to calm the mind is one of the fastest ways to relief. Breathe in as deep as you can for five counts, hold it for five counts and exhale the same counts for 10 minutes. It’s life changing, and also provides a free buzz!

Tip 3: Avoid Over-thinking

Normally, when it comes to stress, some alone time can be very helpful. But for those with daily, persistent anxiety, too much time alone with your own thoughts may cause problems of its own. Remember that anxiety has the potential to alter thought patterns. So if you have anxiety, your thoughts are more prone to being to being negative and fearful, often focusing on worst-case scenarios or thoughts of lacking control. This can lead to further stress and anxiety.

If you tend to get stuck in anxious thinking, it can help to plan to keep your mind occupied. It’s still important to have time to rest and relax, but scheduled activities (healthy activities, of course - not partying, which we'll discuss in a bit) and commitments can provide a distraction from focusing on your anxieties, giving them less space to grow.

Tip 4: Avoid Crutches

We mentioned that you should avoid the partying lifestyle to prevent anxiety, and it's important that you do your best to avoid crutches that could exacerbate your anxiety further.

A crutch is a strategy that reduces anxiety in the short-term. However, as soon as you stop using that strategy, the anxiety returns. In this way, you don’t learn to cope in the long run. Drinking alcohol and using recreational drugs can often reduce anxiety in the moment, but may mask the underlying problem. They also have additional negative side-effects than can contribute to anxiety themselves.

Even a seemingly “healthy” behavior could become a crutch if you rely on it too heavily and it stops you from learning to cope on your own. For example, always relying on a partner to relieve your anxiety when going out may work, but doesn’t teach you how to manage anxiety if they’re not around.

Tip 5: Evaluate Your Diet

The idea that diet plays a key role in anxiety is overblown. A person can develop anxiety with or without a healthy diet, and there are no foods that will “cure” anxiety as though they are like medication.

But there is still benefit to changing your diet. Bodies that are high in nutrients and hydration (by drinking water) tend to have better sleep, experience less stress and brain fog, and help mood and energy via the gut/brain axis.

On the flipside, there are some natural tools you can use to fight anxiety. For example, herbal supplements like kava can be taken as needed, and as long as you use them in combination with non-medicinal treatments, you shouldn't start depending on them.

Similarly, you may find that your anxiety symptoms dissipate with other natural tools as well. You may benefit from magnesium supplements and foods, for example, because magnesium is depleted during times of stress, and magnesium deficiency can lead to some very upsetting symptoms and difficulty controlling anxiety.

There are plenty of natural and healthy options to try, and you should consider talking to your doctor about them as a way to assist in your stress reduction techniques.

Tip 6: Symptom Trigger Control

Stopping anxiety attacks takes time and effort, and isn't something that you can simply fight away. In fact, the more you think about trying to control your attacks, often the more you'll worry about one coming.

What you can do is control the effects of triggers, and that means that you need to get used to each symptom so that they don't trigger panic. If you track your anxiety you may be able to identify some regular trigger points. You can do this with what's known as "exposure therapy.” For example, I used to get triggered in dead stop traffic. But the more times I put myself in it, the less and less it began to bother me. Anxiety, like all things, can’t last forever. The more you're used to the symptom, the less likely it will trigger anxiety.

You can do this for any and all symptoms you experience. If you hyperventilate often, try hyperventilating on purpose. If you get panic attacks in certain locations, go to those locations always and often. As soon as the activity gets bored and tiresome, keep doing it, and eventually your anxiety won't be triggered at all.

Tip 7: Practice Relaxation Exercises

If you've ever sought out help for anxiety in the past, then you've no doubt come across relaxation strategies like visualization, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and others. You may have even tried them, and if you have, you probably didn't experience that much success.

That's because what these people don't tell you is that it can take a long time to feel the benefit. Part of the reason for this is because in the beginning, all you're doing is thinking about how to do them correctly and whether or not they'll work. Your mind gets caught up in analysing rather than actually relaxing.

We've said time and time again that you cannot hope to fight anxiety if you are thinking about it too much. So when you start any relaxation exercise, you're thinking about how it makes you feel and what it does, and whether you're doing it right, and how ridiculous it feels, and so on. This is natural when trying something new. You're doing nothing but thinking, because the relaxation exercise isn't natural to you yet.

For any of this to be effective, you have to keep doing it and expect little results until these strategies become both boring and second nature. As soon as you're able to perform these tips without thinking about it or focusing on each individual part, that's when it should start working for you.

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